New York Times Food Photographer
1. What made you decide to be a photographer?
I was interested in photography since college. I met my friend Joe Fornabaio after High School. He was starting his studies at SVA in NY. I was attending Baruch College across the street...I spent more time there then at my own school and my love of photography was born.
2. Contributing to the New York Times as a photographer has that been a large
part of your success in your career?
It has been the work that has defined me as a professional. The byline added legitimacy to my work that I may not have had in other publications. The fact that I went from unknown to a regular contributor to the Times changed my life, personally and professionally.
3. Does the New York Times approach you with stories and let you run with them? Or do you collaborate on a angle to photograph the food and people involved?
I started shooting in restaurants and gradually moved into the studio work you see now published. I used to get a lot of art direction but as the years progressed and my technique was cemented they offered my the chance to in essence art direct myself. They give me a very wide berth and trust me. There are collaborations on specific pieces and I'll often have a general direction they point me in but I am lucky that they trust my vision. They have really allowed me to grow as an artist on a very big stage.
4. With studio work you usually designate the whole day if not week to shooting food with stylists, but for the newspaper is the story sprung on you last minute and you have one hour to go and shoot it?
It's not quite that harried but short notice delivery has become a bit of a specialty for me. Because I cook and style or have a team of people I work with regularly we operate as a well oiled machine. We can turn stories around in a time frame many other shooters could not. When I do work with a bigger team and a longer time frame it seems like a luxury.
5. Who are some of the notable chefs you have worked with?
Chef Pichet Ong has become one of my closest friends. We met on a job. I have worked with Daniel Boulud, Julian Medina, and scores of other chefs here or in other cities. Many times I work with their recipes and never actually meet in person but talk on the phone and through email. Many times when we meet for the first time it's like we are old friends.
6. Do you enjoy shooting at restaurants or out on location at someone’s kitchen or party?
Honestly, I prefer my studio but it is nice to get out and actually see people now and again. The reason I prefer the studio is control. I like that I have the light I am used to and all of my tools at my disposal. Being in foreign spaces is a lot more work. It's fun...but the days are always longer.
7. Do you travel outside of New York to photograph food? If so where have you gone?
Yes, and I love it. I have shot food all over California, Seattle, Portland, Nice, France, Berlin, Germany among other places here and abroad. The light quality is so different in different locales and it always adds something special to the images.
8. When shooting cookbooks do you photograph what is actually in the recipe or do you create a dish that the viewers can visually understand what it is supposed to be?
That's a great question. The answer is...it depends. Sometimes we break down a recipe to it's component parts to make it more visual or descriptive. Sometimes we shoot it as is. It really depends upon the story we are trying to tell. Sometimes it's about beauty...sometimes it's about learning. It all depends upon the focus of the book.
9. Do you have a favorite type of food you enjoy shooting?
That's easy. Dessert.
10. Has social media and the Internet really help you in making new connections with potential clients?
It has been the single most important way to market what it is that I do. I have made amazing business contacts, new friends and clients with social media. The community is very embracing and I truly appreciate the reception I have gotten from bloggers, Tweeters, Facebook Friends and websites. It is essential to what I do.